Sarah Palin will headline first-ever Tea Party Convention
Sarah Palin’s appearance is a coup for a movement now getting grudging respect from mainstream commentators. But will the feisty Tea Party movement coalesce with the GOP’s old guard?
Almost 1-1/2 years since she shook up American politics with her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is set to headline another landmark political event: the first-ever Tea Party Convention next month in Nashville, Tenn.
On its face, the gig would seem a step down for Ms. Palin, one of conservative America’s most popular and polarizing figures (not to mention major thorn in the side of the Obama White House).
But with an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll ranking a generic “Tea Party” as more popular than either Democrats or Republicans, and Palin herself rivaling the charming Mr. Obama in poll popularity, many experts see the Tea Party event as a potential milestone for a mounting, even transformational, force in US politics.
“[W]ith two wars, a continuing terror threat, huge federal deficits, and a major healthcare overhaul in the works, there is no shortage of disaffection out there … and that could prove to be political dynamite,” writes the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz. Against that backdrop, writes Mr. Kurtz, “The tea types can either blossom into a Perotista-style third-party movement or be subsumed to some degree by the GOP.”
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Can the Tea Party movement unify itself?
Indeed, the Nashville event is not about chartering a new political party to represent conservative ideals like low taxes and states’ rights, but more about unifying to take on “Obama, Pelosi and Reid this year,” writes Judson Phillips, head of Tea Party Nation, one of many Tea Party groups and the lead sponsor of a convention that will feature conservative firebrands such as Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) of Minnesota.
Already, tea-colored races are appearing around the country, including the looming matchup between Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (seen as Republican Lite by many conservatives) and Cuban-American conservative Marco Rubio, who has gotten the stamp of approval by Tea Party folks.
But courting what many call a fringe and inchoate movement carries huge risks, argues Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory University, in Atlanta.